The Rangers have a few things to figure out, and not a lot of time to do it.
Teams that lose the first game in a best-of-five series lose the series 81.9% of the time, and coach David Quinn’s Blueshirts trail their best-of-five play-in series against the Carolina Hurricanes 1-0, after Saturday’s 3-2 loss in Toronto.
More bad news: They’ll play Game 2 Monday without second-line forward Jesper Fast, and possibly without goaltender Igor Shesterkin, who was “unfit to play’’ in Game 1.
“Jesper won’t be available tomorrow,’’ Quinn said in Sunday’s Zoom teleconference call. “I haven't really decided, not sure yet whether Igor will be.’’
Faceoff for Game 2 will be at noon. Game 3 follows Tuesday at 8 p.m. Game 4, if necessary, would be Thursday, at a time to be determined.
Shesterkin, the 24-year-old Russian rookie, had taken over as the team’s No. 1 goaltender before the NHL paused play March 12 and had been expected to start Saturday. But Friday night, the team ruled him unfit, and was forced to go with 38-year-old franchise icon Henrik Lundqvist. Lundqvist, who played in his team-record 129th playoff game for the team, was beaten by Carolina defenseman Jaccob Slavin on the first shot of the game, 61 seconds in. But he had a strong game overall, making 34 saves, some of them huge.
The biggest failure for the Rangers Saturday was their power play, which went 0-for-7 and did not look good at all. After the game, center Mika Zibanejad said the team’s man advantage unit was “out-competed’’ by Carolina’s penalty kill.
Defenseman Jacob Trouba, who plays on the power play’s second unit, said the biggest problem he saw with the power play was an inability to get the puck into the offensive zone cleanly throughout the game.
“I think there were a couple times there we were just a little unorganized coming up the ice, and then being set up was a struggle, I guess, a little bit for us,’’ he said. “A lot of that, I think, was being outworked. And that's . . . something that's not a simple fix, but something that's very much in your own control to fix.’’
“Our power play was about one thing and one thing only, and that’s how slow it was,’’ Quinn said. “Give Carolina credit, they kill with an aggressiveness and a pace, but I thought our power play was a microcosm of what was going on all over the rink, from our end of it. We just didn't skate. There wasn't a lot of urgency to our power play.’’
Quinn was asked if his team needed to get more out of forward Artemi Panarin, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season, its Most Valuable Player, and a finalist for the Hart Trophy, as NHL MVP. Panarin had four shots on goal in his 20:35 of ice time, and did have an assist on Marc Staal’s shorthanded goal that pulled the Rangers within 3-2 late in the third period. But Panarin didn’t seem to have the kind of impact on the game he had on so many games during the regular season.
“Well, we need to get a little bit more from everybody,’’ Quinn said. “After one game, I don't want to . . . jump to conclusions, or overreact. But it is a short series. We do not have time, as we've all talked about. We need more of everybody.
“This was not a one guy thing, where one or two guys had off nights,’’ he continued. “We had too many players have off nights, and our guys know it. We need to move past yesterday, but certainly learn from it.’’